Harvest Chutney

September has been fun in the garden, collecting crab apples, eating and cooking apples and plums from our trees. I’ve also harvested lovely Tomatoes from my five plants from which we’ve been eating daily in salads with our home grown lettuce.  Laterly I’ve made pasta sauce to freeze. In the fields surrounding Cople, on my dog walks,  we’ve enjoyed picking Elderberries and Blackberries. The Sloes are ripening nicely too, although we’ve still got plenty of Sloe gin to drink and give away.

I love the look of the hedges jumbled with tumbling blackberries and rosehips. Today the sun is shining, the tractors are ploughing the fields, the crows and blackbirds sit on bare branches watching over the landscape; hares dart about and deer run in and out of the furrows and hedges around the fields. Every day has a story to tell.

Harvest Chutney Recipe

300g onions chopped

700g plums, stoned and quartered,

350g blackberries

600g cooking apples

75g elderberries

600ml organic red wine vinegar

125g dried cranberries

350g soft light brown sugar

1tsp all spice

1tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ginger

1 tsp coriander

A pinch of sea salt

A ppinch of chilli flakes

Makes 6 x 340g jars

Keeps for 12 months

Method

Put all the ingredients into a preserving pan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring. Make sure that the sugar has dissolved.

2. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until the chutney has reduced, stirring frequently. 

3. When the chutney is ready, check by drawing a wooden spoon across the surface, it should leave a trail. 

4. Pot the chtney into sterilized jars, label and date and put jars into a cool dark place for at least a few weeks before eating. 

Celebrating the cottage garden in pictures

Sorry lovely readers, this photo collage, as you will have probably guessed was originally meant to go with the previous post. Oh the joys of techical hitches! 

Enjoy! I will be out working in the garden soon planting the sage plant given to me by my dad yesterday and weeding. I also have gorgeous yellow and apricot lillies to plant in a border. As I love to do yoga stretches in my garden I am planning a serenity area. Any ideas for planting or water features are most welcome! 🙂

Celebrating our first summer

At Brown Hare cottage garden we are celebrating our first year. Last year we worked very hard getting rid of brambles and weeds. We grew flowers from seeds, planted many gifted plants and planned and created borders and a new cutting garden. As we have our bordder collies we have their interests at heart too, so there are areas they can explore. There is also a fenced vegetable garden with raised beds. Currently we have blackberry bushes, raspberry and currant bushes as well as tomatoes and courgettes.

 

 

 

 

Artful country foraging

At last summer’s here and since the month of June I have enjoyed foraging for Elderflower heads, then this month for cherries. I have my eyes peeled for the ripening rosehips, the wild plums, elderberries, blackberries of course and hazel, cobs, sweet chestnuts and if I’m lucky I’ll get a small harvest of green walnuts. I’ll add my garden herbs to nuts to make pesto and make cordials, cakes and coulis with my fruit harvest.

So far I’ve made wonderful Elderflower cordial, which is delicious poured over ice with water, amazing drizzled over strawberries as an alternative to dairy options and sublime with a measure of dry gin, natural tonic water and ice.


Note, I used the Belvoir bottle but my cordial is not as sweet, it has a hint of rose water and is gently refreshing.

Elderflower cordial

2.5 litres cold water

500g sugar

4 unwaxed lemons

20 or so freshly gathered healthy elderflower heads

2 tablespoons of rose water (optional)

50 grams citric acid( from chemists or jam making shelf)

1 Campden tablet (from brewing shops or ddepartments)

You will need a very large saucepan, a bucket with a lid, a washing up bowl, wooden spoon, a clean tea towel, two litre bottles with lids and a half litre bottle and a lemon zester.

Method

1. Put sugar and water Iinto the pan and gently heat without boiling until the sugar has dissolved. Sir now and again.

2. Pare the zest from the lemons then slice the lemons Iinto rounds.

3. Add the rose water, stir then bring the syrup to boil, then turn off the heat.

4. Fill the washing up bowl with cold water and gently give the heads a clean. Discard any dried up looking flowers.

5. Shake off the water.

6. Put the cooled syrup into the bucket or tub and add the elderflowers, sliced lemons, citric acid and the crushed campden tablet as well as the lemon zest.

7. Stir put the lid on and leave for at least 24 hours. I left mine for 3 days stirring occasionally.

8. Line a colander with a clean teatowel and sit over a large bowl or pan.

9. Let the syrup drip through slowly, enjoying the aroma.

10. Discard the bits in the towel.

11. Using a small funnel pour your cordial into clean sterilised bottles.

12. Put in the fridge.

13. Will keep for a few weeks. Enjoy!

Serendipitous spring

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Spring 2016 in our cottage garden has been serendipitous because last year at this time, we had just moved in to our cottage and the garden was overgrown with brambles, nettles and ivy. We had so much work to do in the house however we did our best to clear some of the ‘wilderness’ and then left the brambles to ramble over winter. Early February this year we began to tackle the weeds, design new borders and we planted new perennials,  fruit bushes and trees. It has been most enjoyable watching some of the original cottage garden plants and blossom surprise us with a beautiful display of colour. These plants have also given us an indication of what type of plants will grow in specific areas of the garden.
The following photo, maybe difficult to visualise, however it shows the initial planting of cottage borders, a herbarium and flower cutting garden. There will be a lavender scented border around a seating area too. I am really looking forward to sitting reading my book surrounded by beautiful smelling plants. I forgot to say that there will be a small raised bed for me to experiment growing Swiss chard, squashes, beans,rhubarb, lettuces and courgettes. It will develop into a vegetarian’s  kitchen garden. Note this area is only a small area of the garden, there is an orchard in development, a fruit garden and a lawned area with herbaceous borders. Over the the last few weeks hubby and I have worked tremendously hard in the garden and already our 1/3 acre plot is taking shape.

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Chair affair

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As promised everyone,  here’s the finished fireside chair, which I presented to hubby on Xmas day. He loves it and it fits snuggly in our parlour. Over theMy chair affair -My husband’s fireside chair is finished! holiday period I purchased a few more chairs to cherish and reupholster. I am very excited!

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The Bedfordshire countryside and my love of Scotland inspire me to create beautiful reupholstered chairs. Enjoy.

Lovely light gluten and dairy free lemon, rose and Strawberry drizzle cake

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This drizzle cake was so easy to prepare and bake and tastes delicious. Even though it’s free from gluten and dairy, it is moist and fruity: my husband agrees and it has all been eaten! You can use other freeze dried berries such as rasberries, go for orange instead of lemon. Have fun and let me know how you get on. I love homemade cakes and hate overpriced additive packed shop bought cakes. For me this cake is perfect for afternoon tea: it is ‘free from gf and dairy heaven’!
The ingredients and recipe
175g dairy free spread
175 natural cane caster sugar
Zest and juice of two lemons
3 large free range eggs
200g gluten free self raising flour (I used Dove farm)
1 teaspoon of gluten free baking powder
1 large handful of freeze dried strawberries
For the rose and lemon drizzle
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons of  natural cane caster sugar
2 tablespoons of rose water
A sprinkling of strawberry sprinkles

Method
Preheat your oven to 180º or gas mark 4.
Grease a 900g loaf tin and line with greaseproof paper or a lpaper loaf liner (preferable)
1 Cream spread, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy (I used a hand mixer)
2 Beat in eggs one at a time
3 Mix together the flour, baking powder and strawberries
4 Add lemon juice and combine
5 Spoon the mixture into your prepared tin and smooth on top.
6 Bake for 40-45 mins until golden. (I peep at it because gf cakes can coom quicker in my experience,  but DON’T open the oven door until you’re ready to take out your cake)
7 Leave cake in tin and immediately make your drizzle syrup.
8 To make the drizzle, put all ingredients apart from the sprinkles into a small saucepan and gentle heat until the sugar mixture becomes syrupy.
9. With a skewer, put little holes throughout the top of the cake
10 Gentle pour over the syrup making sure it seeps through the holes.
11 Leave your cake to cool completely before lifting it out onto a plate.
Eat and enjoy!

Upholstery tales: The chair’s new look

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After alot of stroking, gently pulling taut the new fabric, tacking and cutting; the beautiful natural 100% Wool, Scottish Mills Herringbone  design finally begins to fit and shape my once unloved wobbly legged chair. The colour isn’t quite right here but it is a kind of pebble grey. I can’t believe how soft the fabric feels. Imagine how hubby will feel snuggled up on his fireside chair, drinking tea and watching the dancing flames. Only a few weeks until christmas when this chair has to be finished and delivered home. Getting the folds was tricky for a first timer but my fairy upholstery genious is only a few steps away ready to assist and advise.

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A little more work on folding the fabric to create the diamond shapes on the inside of the chair. They have to look even. Then the fun bit is to attach the buttons.

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Take an upholstery needle, thread your thread through your lovely handmade button, then temporarily secure using the magic upholsterer’s knot.

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My fabulous handmade button covered with tartan wool fabric. Making buttons is very therapeutic.
Gradually my chair is renewed, refreshed and loved.

Restoring an Edwardian Bergere sofa

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Our recent auction buy was this antique, possibly Edwardian Bergere sofa. It has woven rattan sides and back. The base is upholstered and there are four cushions. Actually it is very comfortable, however the base needs support. As you can see by the photo, once stripped of it’s velvet cover and padding what is remaining isn’t very good. Believe it or not, ripping off the velvet cover and padding took me three hours (with a few coffee breaks) in Maria’s workshop.

I’ve now got to do a plan for the size of cushions, measure the base and calculate the metres of fabric required. Then I’ve got the wonderful job of finding a cosy, dog friendly fabric which will be hard wearing and look good of course next to the wool plaid armchair I’m also reupholstering (see the last post).